This article is written by Anshika Gubrele, second-year BA LLB student at Bharati Vidyapeeth New Law College, Pune. In this article, she discusses why Bride Burning takes place in India highlighting its causes and remedies. The author also lays emphasis on the dowry system that is still prevalent in Indian society and is the main cause of bride burning. Further, she discusses the causes of the dowry system, laws related to the prohibition of the dowry system and the remedies that can help in the eradication of such heinous crimes from the country.
Indian society has been stigmatized by many social and legal problems. One of such problems is the dowry system that still prevails in the society. Though such practice is condemned by law still it is a custom that is performed in various parts of India. The biggest problem that arose because of such practice being followed in society is the problem of bride burning – a heinous crime that is being committed in India by many families when they fail to get the demanded dowry by the bride’s family. The cases of bride burning have increased steadily in Indian society. Despite many judicial efforts to eradicate the evil practice of dowry taking, the cases of bride burning are still at an alarming rate.
Dowry system – The main cause of Bride Burning
The concept of dowry has been misconstrued in today’s time and is not the same as originated in Ancient India. Earlier dowry was given by the bride’s family voluntarily as a token of gratitude towards the groom and his family symbolising the purity of the ritual.
But now it has become an exploitative practice of extorting a certain amount of cash price or jewellery or any electronic equipment by the bride’s family to the groom’s family. Further, it can be understood as an unnecessarily performed evil practice against the bride in which she is treated as inferior to the groom and in order to satisfy all the conditions and demands of the groom, the bride’s family provides him and his family all the things they have asked for. They are provided with lavish gifts and other expensive items. All their demands should be at the top priority for the bride’s family no matter whether they are able to afford them or not. This is clearly an injustice towards the females because there is no logic in the concept of treating her as an inferior just because she is a girl. But the injustice done to her does not end here. If the in-laws or the husband is dissatisfied with the cash or other things or in the case failed to get the things they expected to get, then in such conditions, the bride is victimised to inhuman treatment and domestic violence. Not only this she is inhumanly burnt alive just after a few days of marriage by her in-laws who do this just out of greed so they can forcefully get money from her family. But the question here is – Is this justified? We all might agree on the same answer – No, it’s not. Then why such crimes are emerging in our society and the biggest question is why such systems are being accepted?
Why the dowry system still prevails in India?
The dowry system is still prevalent in India because of many reasons. Some of the causes that give rise to such evils and still provoke them to take place can be –
- The social structure – Indian society is structured in such a way that men are always placed above women. Rather men are considered to be superior in every aspect. They are often considered as a second-grade citizen who can only contribute to household work. Thus such a system often gives rise to atrocities against women which is also evident in the form of dowry system that is still being practised.
- Customs and Traditions – Indian society is marked with various customs and traditions. Dowry in the past years has become a tradition been followed by everyone no matter what is the financial condition of the family.
- Illiteracy – Illiteracy is one of the biggest factors responsible for the emergence of such a system in society. Lakhs of women are not sent to schools because of reasons such as poverty and superstitions that education will make them independent and will take away from them their qualities to become a “good wife.”
- Social status of women – Women are never considered as standing on par with men in many parts of India, today also despite their achievements and progress which is leading them even ahead of men. Where women are treated unlike and not the same way as men, such systems often emerge due to huge differences.
Bride Burning – a heinous crime
Bride burning also referred to as Dowry death is the most heinous crime that is still being committed in India. When the bride’s family fails to provide adequate dowry asked by the groom and his family or are dissatisfied by the dowry given to them, then is such situations, the bride is ill-treated and shockingly she is even burnt alive. India is witnessing a high number of such cases where a newly married woman is brutally killed in such a way.
Statistics of bride burning in India
According to recent reports, nearly 8000 women die every year from bride burning. In the year 2010 – 8391 dowry death cases were reported across India, which means a bride was burnt every 90 minutes, according to statistics recently released by the National Crime Records Bureau. More than a decade earlier this number was 6995, but increased to 8093 dowry deaths in 2007 and kept on increasing till 2010 with total 8,391 bride burning cases.
Laws dealing with Bride burning cases
With a perspective to eradicate or reduce dowry death cases, the Indian Government passed legislation regarding the same. The increasing number of cases was the main cause to frame laws in such a way that would prohibit dowry demands leading to a reduction in the bride burning cases.
The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 was an initiative taken by the government in order to prohibit the dowry demands across the country. According to the act, any person offering or accepting dowry will be penalised with imprisonment up to five years and with fine up to Rs.15000 or sum equal to the demanded dowry. The act was further subjected to amendments in 1984 and 1986 respectively in order to remove the ambiguities in relation to certain terms used in the act and make the provisions stricter and effective.
Section 304B – Dowry Death
Where the death of a woman is caused by any burns or bodily injury or occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances within seven years of her marriage and it is shown that soon before her death she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry, such death shall be called “dowry death”, and such husband or relative shall be deemed to have caused her death. Whoever commits dowry death shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life.
Section 498A – Husband or relative of husband of the woman subjecting her to cruelty
Whoever being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also liable to fine. The cruelty can be either mental or physical torture which drives the women to commit suicide or to cause serious injury, danger to life or health.
Section 176(1) provides inquest by the executive magistrate and section 174(3) (Cr. P. C.) provides as follows:
When (1) The case involves suicide by a woman within seven years of her marriage (ii) The case relates to the death of a woman within seven years of her marriage in any circumstances raising a reasonable suspicion that some other person committed an offence in relation to such woman, or (iii) The case relates to the death of a woman within seven years of her marriage and any relative of the woman has made a request in this behalf, the police officer will forward the body for autopsy to the nearest medical officer.
Section 113 A, Indian Evidence Act (IEA). Presumption as to abetment of suicide by a married woman:
When the question is whether the commission of suicide by woman had been abetted by her husband or any relative of her husband and it is shown that she had committed suicide within a period of seven years from the date of her marriage and her husband or such relative of her husband had subjected to cruelty , the court may resume, having regard to all the other circumstances of the case, that such suicide had been abetted by her husband or by such relative of her husband.
- Stringent laws and speedy trials – Several laws have been enacted in order to eradicate the rigid practice of dowry system in India. The laws prescribe strict punishments and penalties such as the Dowry Prohibition Act which penalises a person taking dowry with imprisonment as well as fine. Speedy trials will also help in providing quick justice to the victims and punishing the culprits without any delay.
- Enforcement of laws – It is not sufficient just to enact laws to eliminate such an evil system from society. Proper enforcement of the laws is also necessary at the same time. Authorities must ensure that there are proper investigation procedures taking place so that no offender is left free from being punished. After so many legislations were enacted still we can see that there are demands of dowry and death cases because of it. Thus the government needs to strengthen the policy implementation system to see a rapid change in the society.
- Social Awareness and Education – Making people socially aware and giving them education regarding the do’s and don’ts will help in tackling such situations easily. Campaigns must be started by the government to spread awareness as such an initiative will help in reducing the number of cases taking place every year. The girl child must be empowered through education. She must know to take a step for herself instead of suffering silently and become a victim of such heinous crimes.
- Change of mindset – There is a strong need for changing the mindset of people in a country like India where people believe that a woman is inferior to a man, where they believe that a girl is a burden on her family and after marriage, she needs to comply with everything said by her in-laws. She, being a woman does not have any rights of her own or her personal views regarding something just because she is born as a girl! Thus people with such opinions still exist in society. Thus there is a strong need for reforming such an orthodox society still prevalent in India.
Indian society has been loopholes which give rise to inhuman behaviour against others. The rigidity in the social structure often leads to many differences among people. Gender inequality is one of the causes or can be understood as a loophole which directly confers men with social powers and persuades others to treat women unlike and inferior to men. This results in cruel and evil practices such as dowry system and bride burning coming into the light.
Due to the significant increase in bride burning cases, the Government made efforts to combat and eradicate such systems prevalent in society. Several laws have been enacted in order to punish the offenders and provide justice to innocent victims who are generally newly married women. Despite laws being framed and enacted accordingly, there are still such cases knocking the doors of courts. Thus there is a need for an efficient mechanism which ensures that such atrocities and violence against women are curbed from society so that they can lead a better life even after marriage.